Gluttony is an unregulated love for food or drink. It is appetite out of order, by which we abuse the legitimate pleasure God has attached to eating and drinking. It is sometimes said that gluttony makes one "like an animal," though animals seldom overeat or drink too much. Yet there is some truth in this statement because gluttony dulls the mind, that is, the intellect and reason, which is the faculty that lifts us above animals.
Gluttony is the source of serious obstacles in our spiritual life. It is not easy to study or pray after eating or drinking too much. Gluttony weakens the will and fosters a spirit of laziness, sensuality and impurity. It often results in silliness and vulgar or obscene talk.
We may be what is called a "gourmand" by eating too much or consuming food too quickly and too avidly. We may be a "gourmet" by being too fastidious and wanting unusual foods and delicacies. We may commit small faults by being too finicky, difficult to please, critical or inclined to grumble about food.
Intoxication, or the excessive use of alcoholic drinks, which results in drunkenness, is the worst form of this vice. The drunkard drowns his reason in liquor so he no longer knows what he is doing. His evil habit causes him to lose his good name and makes others despise him. Very often it brings impoverishment, disgrace and starvation to the family. Anger, cursing, quarreling, fighting, stealing and cheating are often the result of the habit of drinking.
A man may beat his wife and children or others, or even commit a murder because of this vice. Sins of impurity are closely allied to it. Countless auto accidents result from drunken driving. All too often these accidents bring injury and death to several persons. The drunkard not infrequently dies in a stupor, so he is not able to repent of his sins, and what then must be his eternal destiny? Holy Scripture says, "do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
Unfortunately, drunkenness is not confined to the male sex, as it was notably in former years, but has become a common vice also among women, in whom it seems all the more degrading.
There are grades or degrees of intoxication. Complete drunkenness, which takes away the reason, is mortally sinful. Incomplete intoxication, when there is no grave disorder, may be less grievous. The degree of the sin is in accord with the degree of the disorder.
We may become party to the sin of another by inducing him to drink to excess, so we should take the greatest care in offering a drink as a mark of friendship and hospitality, or in serving liquor at social affairs. Above all, it is wrong to insist if a person refuses, or to offer strong drinks to the young.
Alcoholism with its many vicious consequences is one of the most widespread evils of our time. Men, women and youths are its victims. It ruins many homes by discord and divorce. It ruins the lives of all who are in its power.
The Church teaches that moderation and sobriety are always to be observed in the use of alcoholic beverages. For many, total abstinence is the only guarantee that they will not some day cross the line and become an alcoholic or a drunkard as a result of their first occasional and lawful indulgence.
In connection with this subject, abuse of drugs and narcotics may also be mentioned. Drugs and narcotics have a necessary use in illnesses, but should be taken only under a doctor's prescription because of the danger of forming a habit by their use.